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Italy-EU Tensions Over Migration Grow Amid Threats to Veto Bloc's Budget

MOSCOW (Sputnik), Luc Rivet - Tensions between Italy and the European Commission escalated last Friday after a meeting of EU member states in Brussels failed to find a solution for the distribution of illegal migrants stranded in the Mediterranean on board the Italian Coast Guard's Diciotti vessel among the rest of the European Union.

Following the talks, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged to respond to the EU failure to ease Italy's burden of migration by voting down the next seven-year budget plan of the European Union.

This triggered an escalating spat, with European Commission Deputy Chief Spokesman Alexander Winterstein resorting to aggressive rhetoric and claiming that threats in Europe did not lead anywhere.

READ MORE: WATCH Migrants Storm Beach, Shock Tourists at Luxury Spanish Resort

Despite the fact that Italy, which initially refused to let the migrants on board the Diciotti vessel disembark in the country's ports, allowed to drop off the rescued migrants at a Sicilian port after Albania, Ireland and the Italian Episcopal Conference agreed to host the migrants, the fundamental disagreements on migration between Rome and Brussels remain in place.

On EU Neglect of National Authorities Concerns

Aldo Carcaci, a member of the Belgian parliament, criticized in his comments to Sputnik the European Commission's lack of respect to Italy's national government's demands.

"The pretentious attitude of [President Jean-Claude] Juncker’s Commission is totally unacceptable. [The European Commission] must show respect to the elected national governments. That is where democracy lies, not in the Brussels[-based] commission corridors," Carcaci, who is Sicilian by origin, argued.

He believed that the Italian authorities were criticized by Brussels due to the fact that they had revealed to the world that EU migration policy was pure lip service.

"The truth is that in southern countries, where the Germans have imposed an implacable austerity, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering, and nobody cares about their fate. And yet, every time a clandestine migrant gets talked about, the deal makes headlines in Europe," Carcaci stressed.

On Italy's Right to Defend National Interests

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Italy Preparing to Limit Contributions to EU Long-Term Budget Over Migrant Issue
Italy, with a population of 60 million people, is the fourth net contributor to the EU total budget and the sole southern European member state to give Brussels more than it receives.

This does give Italy some strength in its demands, especially taking into account the fact that after the departure of the United Kingdom from the bloc, the EU member states will have to either increase their contributions or reduce the expenditures.

"A wind of change is blowing across Europe at the moment and the Brussels establishment is absolutely terrified. The Italian government has every right to defend their national interest at the Council [of the European Union] level," Jonathan Bullock, a member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), told Sputnik.

If Italy votes down the EU budget, the European Union could face a deep crisis, since the funding draft covers the bloc's entire policy plans between 2021 and 2027.

On Threats and Revenge

Fabio Castaldo, a member of the European Parliament from Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), told Sputnik that the announced plans to veto the EU draft budget should not be perceived as a threat or revenge.

"We hope not to have to impose our veto on the European budget. Our position is not a threat nor a revenge, but the firm willingness to protect the citizens’ interests," Castaldo explained.

READ MORE: Italy Preparing to Limit Contributions to EU Long-Term Budget Over Migrant Issue

He wondered why Italy should support the proposal for the next EU long-term financial framework at a time when Brussels was completely unperceptive to Italy’s legitimate claim to share the migration management burden.

"Italy spends 4 billion [euros] a year to keep up, alone, the welcoming machine of migrants landing on the Italian soil, which is also the European soil. The problem is common to the entire European Union, but the solution remains as a burden, for only Italy to bear," Castaldo emphasized.

Filip Dewinter, another member of the Belgian parliament, underlined in an interview with Sputnik that Italy was sovereign to decide on its budget and had the right to threaten the EU "apparatchiks" taking into account the country's contribution to the bloc's budget.

The views and opinions expressed by contributors are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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